Authors: Barry J. Hutchison
Jaden flipped the keys once around his finger, then stared at the lemon-yellow monstrosity in front of him. “Holy shit,” he said. “That’s the ugliest car I’ve ever seen.”
Col thought briefly about arguing, but decided it was a losing battle. Joe’s car was a rusted old Fiat Multipla, and while Col didn’t know a whole lot about cars, everything about this one, from its odd shape to the way it slouched to one side screamed ‘no’.
“It’s got headlights on the windshield. Who builds a car with headlights on the windshield?” Jaden asked. “And who then chooses to buy said car?”
Col shrugged. “You know, Joe’s old.”
“Yes, old, not fucking
,” said Jaden. “Sorry, end of the world or not, I cannot be seen driving this thing.”
He tossed Col the keys. Col fumbled for a moment, but managed to keep hold of them. There was a keyring with a little picture of Joe on it. A girl, maybe around four-years-old, was hugging him tightly. A granddaughter, Col guessed. “Poor Joe,” he said, then he unlocked the doors.
The driver’s seat was pushed almost all the way forward. Col had to shove it all the way back so he could fit behind the wheel. Jaden jumped into the seat behind him and immediately wrinkled his nose. “Ew. It smells like old person.”
“Jesus, Jaden, have some respect,” Col said. “Joe’s dead.”
“Well then he isn’t going to take offence then, is he?” Jaden said. “Besides, we’re stealing his car, that’s not exactly respectful either.”
“We’re not stealing it, we’re borrowing it,” said Jaden, turning the key and spluttering the engine reluctantly into life. “We’ll go find help. Flag down a cop or something, and get all this sorted out.”
Jaden gave a dry laugh as Col reversed out of the parking bay. “You don’t get it, do you?” he said. “You still think it’s all going to be fine. Have you seen The Walking Dead? Dawn of the Dead? Pretty much anything with ‘dead’ in the title, actually? This is how it starts. This is the beginning of the end.”
Col pulled up at the exit to the car park and stopped. “Yeah, but those are movies and TV shows,” he pointed out. “Real life doesn’t work that way.”
“Tell that to Joe,” he said, then something off to the right caught his eye. “And if everything’s fine, what about that?”
Col leaned forward and looked out through the passenger side window. A white hatchback was on its roof a hundred yards or so along the street. By the looks of it, it had rolled a few times before coming to rest.
“That’s just an accident,” said Col. “Just an unfortunate accident.”
“Yeah? Then where are the cops? Where are the paramedics?” Jaden asked. “In Heaven, that’s where. Because they’re all dead.”
“Shut up,” said Col.
“I’m fucking telling you, dude,” Jaden continued, but Col interrupted him before he could go any further.
“No, Jaden, shut up. Look!”
Jaden followed Col’s finger. At first, he thought his friend was pointing at the car, but then he saw it: a silver shape in the sky above the wreckage. It was big, and getting rapidly bigger. “Is that…?” Jaden’s eyes went wide. “Oh shit. Drive, drive, drive!”
Col wheel spun out of the car park and skidded left onto the street. The car whined pathetically as he floored the accelerator. Col jumped up and down in the seat, as if that would somehow force the thing to go faster. “Move, you piece of shit!” he sobbed.
Jaden was sitting half-turned in his seat, ducking low so he could see out through the back windscreen. “It’s gaining on us!”
“Of course it’s fucking gaining on us!” Col shouted. “It’s a plane!”
Two miles back, but less than half a mile in the air, a passenger jet plunged after them, tilting as it fell.
“I can’t hurry it up! It’s going as fast as it can!”
Jaden whipped round and grabbed for his seat belt. “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck?”
“What?” Col demanded. “Is it going to—?”
There was a sound, louder than any Col had ever heard before. No, not
sound, lots of sounds. Hundreds of them, thousands, all happening at the same time behind them, every one of them terrible.
There was a light which flared the evening sky in orange. There was a warmth, which became a heat, which became a hiss of pain on Col’s lips.
The terrible sounds caught up. Col heard Jaden scream.
And the world went dark.
Leanne hurried along beside Marshall, her knife gripped tightly in her hand again. Hoon marched on ahead, muttering below his breath.
“He’s not happy about the guns, is he?” Leanne whispered.
“No,” said Marshall, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t fancy being whoever took them if he finds them.”
“What do you think about all that stuff he said? About the bug?”
Marshall puffed out his cheeks and shrugged. “No idea.”
“Is he dangerous?” Leanne asked.
“What? Uh, no, no he’s not dangerous,” Marshall said, although he felt the need to add, “Don’t think so,” just to cover himself.
Hoon looked back over his shoulder. “Keep up, you pair,” he called. “I swear, if we get to the car park and find out there’s no riot wagons left, I will not be a happy man.”
A moment later, they reached the car park. There were no riot wagons left. Hoon, to his word, was not a happy man.
“Bastards! The fucking robbing bastards!”
“The wagons would’ve been out on call, sir,” Marshall pointed out. “You know, dealing with rioting like they’re supposed to.”
Hoon shouted a few more obscenities at the world at large, then took a deep breath and smoothed down his overcoat. “Right. We need a vehicle.”
“My car’s parked out front,” Marshall said.
“Right. OK. What kind is it?”
“A Renault Clio.”
Hoon buried his face in his hands. “Fuck!” he shouted. “OK, fine. That’ll have to do. Let’s go.”
They turned to find a small crowd of people gathered behind them. Leanne raised her knife, and Marshall fumbled in his belt for his. Hoon cast his eye over the crowd and stepped forward.
“What do you lot want?” he demanded.
Marshall spotted an elderly woman in a dressing gown among the crowd. His heart, which had been racing pretty much constantly for the past few hours, seemed to crash to a halt in his chest. “Uh, sir,” he began.
“No’ now, detective inspector,” said Hoon. He took another step closer to the crowd. There were thirty or forty of them, most of them at least partly hunched over, their faces twisted in anger, their fingers curved into claws. “I’m going to give you folks the count of three to fuck off,” Hoon said. “Station’s shut. You’re on your own. One,” he began.
“Martin?” Leanne whispered. Marshall took her hand and squeezed it.”
“Two!” boomed Hoon.
“Uh, sir,” Marshall hissed.
Hoon held up a hand for silence. He opened his mouth to say, “Three,” but before the word could escape his lips, the crowd surged forwards.
Marshall looked around, searching for a way past the onrushing horde, but there was a wall behind them, and the crowd was closing in on all other sides.
Leanne’s grip tightened in his hand. They looked at each other, and both saw fear in the other’s eyes.
They were surrounded. Trapped.
And there was nowhere left to run.
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